Tweak to Hokies' secondary could pay off

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- With only one starter returning on the defensive line, and the linebacker rotation in flux, Virginia Tech’s defensive backs have already adopted the mentality that they will be the leaders of the defense this year.

Cornerback Rashad Carmichael and rover Davon Morgan have to be replaced as starters, but with Jayron Hosley, Eddie Whitley, Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum returning, there are plenty of playmakers for Virginia Tech to depend upon. One of the biggest changes to the defense is in the secondary, where Exum has moved from free safety to rover, but this year, the free safety and rover will be interchangeable and share similar responsibilities.

This tweak is a chance for Exum to flourish and have a breakout season alongside free safety Eddie Whitley. Virginia Tech began spring practices on Tuesday with Exum preparing to be the starter after serving as the No. 2 free safety a year ago.

“We’re the communication out there, so there’s a lot of responsibility on us,” Exum said of he and Whitley. “I couldn’t be more ready. I’m really excited to be able to start on the college level like this for Bud Foster and his defense, I’m real excited.”

Exum played in every game last year with five starts when the Hokies lined up in their nickel defense. He’s more potential than he is production at this point, but that could change this season. It’s not a dramatic position change, but it’s one that could benefit the entire defense if Exum gets a better grasp of it this offseason.

“We’re putting a good player at a position that is good for him,” said coach Frank Beamer. “We’ll get him all over the place. He’s a talented guy. I think it’s going to help him and in turn help us.”